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9 Steps to Making Indie Games That Produce Five Figures a Month

A case study in building an app game business that brought in $70,000 per month in revenue. These 9 steps are instructions that anyone can follow, even in today's competitive market.

There are two types of indie game app developers. One type creates apps for income, the other does it for fun. 

Since you clicked on the title of this blog post, I'm going to assume that you are the former.

And why not? 

Games can provide relatively passive income...if you start with the end in mind. So in this post, I'm going to go through the 9 steps that we used at Bluecloud to create apps that collectively brought in as much as $70,000 per month in revenue. 

Find out exactly what we focused on, how we did the research and what where the big leverage points in our strategy. 

1. Focus on Revenue 

focus on revenue

The first thing you have to do is commit to making money with your apps. Yeah, thank you Captain Obvious.

But seriously, it can be easy to go off on tangets that don't pay. 

Building apps for fun and building apps for revenue are usually two very different things. Sometimes they intersect (yay!), but many times, focusing on generating cash requires you to take a very different approach. 

Now this is the point that you might be expecting me to give you some super secret marketing hack that will bring in millions of downloads. Not really. 

The first key in our strategy was to reduce costs. What costs the most in the app development process? 

As you know, that is usually coding. 

So we used app templates or source code to produce our games. 

That model is becoming less viable, but you can still leverage source codes to drastically reduce your startup costs.

This goes for games or any other type of app. 

See if you can find existing apps that you might be able to buy for much less than the start-from-scratch development costs. The best place to start is apps that are solid, but have not been updated in awhile or are not getting a lot of downloads. 

You may be able to partner with the developer or buy the code straight up so the developer can move on to another project. 

Then focus on creating an amazing user experience. If you focus on that, the money should come. 

2. Research Deep 

The slickest UX isn't going to make up for the fact that you are in the wrong niche. If people don't want a game like yours, then you are dead before you start. 

Therefore, we did a ton of research before we even thought about looking for source code or putting together a marketing plan.

We looked at both the macro and the micro factors. The micro things are: keywords, titles, popular themes and all that good stuff. In other words, it's anything that has to do with the game itself. 

The macro factors are sometimes a little harder to quantify. One example of a macro trend that we discovered was the move to Unity 3D as the development platform. This allowed us to create richer and more complex games. 

So when you are researching the market for your next game, don't only look at the theme and keywords. Remember to look at the bigger picture. 

3. Hot or Not? 

There is one part of the research process that you need to pay particular attention to. Enough so, that it deserves its own step. 

This is the idea of "surfing" trends. If there is a hot trend in popular culture, you can take advantage of that to market your app. Just be sure that the connection isn't forced. 

For example, if you make racing games, you probably aren't going to ride the plastic surgery wave. 

google trend

One opportunity that we nocticed was during the iOS 8.3 update. A friend of ours new that the update would include a new set of emojis

So he updated his app and re-launched it.

#1 on the App Store. 

To take advantage of these oportunities, you are basically looking for 3 things. Keyword, developer and function trends.

Keywords are obvious. 

Function trends are things like swiping keyboards or anything that is a new way of interacting with a device. App bundles are another example. 

Developer trends are new SDK updates. What new things can you do with the software? 

By paying attention to these trends you can ride the wave of popular searches to easy downloads. But you have to stay on top of things. 

Of course, Google Trends is a great place to start. 

3. Cross Platform Cash

Just because iOS makes the most money, doesn't mean that you should exclude other platforms. If you have the bandwidth to develop for other platforms, you should experiment with other marketplaces. 

This also diversifies your portfolio and provides you some protection from short-term dips on any one platform. We would recommend following this hierarchy: Apple App Store > Google Play > Amazon > Windows. 

If you are feeling really adventurous, you might even try the Blackberry World marketplace. Just be sure to do your research first. 

But iOS and Google Play are a must. 

4. Premium Advertisers + Direct Deals = Mo' Money

The next step assumes that you monetize your app with ads. Even if you don't use ads, you may still want to read this section. 

Everything in life is negotiable. Even if there isn't a sign on the door saying so, you should always try to negotiate. 

If you can get better payouts on your ads, you make more money. It's not rocket science, but it does take a little work. 

This goes for anything in your life or business and it goes back to lowering your costs. Think about what you can negotiate right now...

5. Test Ad Networks (Yes, all of them)

We tested over 25 ad networks to see what worked best. Again, even if you aren't using ads, think about testing a ton of things and see what works. 

You can test your in-app purchases, your screenshots, whatever. 

Our ad network tests paid off. We made way more money that we would have otherwise. 

7. Process

If you are flailing around all day, you will never get anywhere. To prevent this, we put together processes that were well documented and got the right people in place to execute. 

You might not be at that point yet, but keep in mind that in order to grow, you will need to do this, at some point. 

So think about how you can systematize what you do right now. Even it is just you, having a process in place can speed things up and make it that much eaiser to pass on to someone else.  

8. Networking 

Nobody succeeds in a vacuum. In order to grow, you need to help others and get help.

This has been one of the biggest business lessons that we have learned. Take some time every day to reach out to people in your industry and just make some friends. 

networking for success  

9. Do Work 

Finally, you just have to put the work in. That is where a lot of people fall short. 

There isn't much more to say...just get it done. 

Conclusion 

Those are the 9 steps that we have used to build a $70,000 per month app portfoilio. We hope that it helps you make your next game a success.

To get more tips on how to build successful games, give our interview series a listen.

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